The Forestry Development Authority or FDA has clarified here that Liberian timbers or logs have never been embargoed contrary to media reports. Acting FDA Managing Director Harrison Karnwea said the Liberian government last year placed a moratorium on the operation of PUPs, which affected the sale of timbers from PUP operations.
"This situation is now being handled as mentioned earlier in our deliberation. Therefore, there is no EMBARGO on Liberian Timbers as has been widely reported in both local and international media. '
"Evidence for this statement is that 5 FMCs are currently operating out of the 7FMCs awarded, while the remaining two will commence operation during this logging season", Director Karnwea told a weekly press briefing Thursday at the Ministry of Information on Capitol Hill, Monrovia.
He said three community forests (Blueyeama, Blouquia and Neezonie) located in Grand Gedeh and Lofa Counties are currently operating. The FDA boss added that the Liberian government sets for itself a very ambitious target to conserve 30% of the country's remaining forest area.
"Presently there are three protected areas that have been legislated. They are: Sapo National Park in Sinoe, Grand Gedeh and River Gee Counties, East Nimba Nature Reserve in Nimba County and Lake Piso Multiple use Nature Reserve in Grand Cape Mount County", he said, and added that proposed Protected Areas and that the FDA is active in include the Gola National Park in Gbarpolu and Cape Mount Counties, Wanigizi in Lofa County and the Grebo National Park in River Gee and Grand Gedeh Counties.
"Other proposed areas that we have not commenced any official activities in are: The West Nimba, Gbi, Sanquien, the Kpelleh, Wologizi, Foya, Kpo Mountain, Bong range, Margibi Mangrove, Gio Forest, Krahn-Bassa Forest and the Grand Kru-River Gee Forest", he explained.
Meanwhile, Director Karnwea has disclosed that the Forestry Development Authority is collaborating with the Sierra Leonean Forestry Authorities on the Trans-boundary Peace Park declared by Presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Ernest Bai Koroma.
He said Liberia has just completed consultation and obtained the agreement of the forest dependent communities in Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount counties to declare the area a National Park.
According to him, the World Bank supported the Consolidation of Protected Area Network (COPAN), the Expansion of Protected Area Network (EXPAN) and recently the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPC) through a grant of $950,000; $750, OOO and$3.6M, respectively.
"We have read various reports of the amount operators of logging companies owe the Liberian Government. Let us report today that all the operators of logging concessions in Liberia combined owe the GoL $43,347,927.50 out of total invoice of $61,429,000., eighty-two (82.4) percent of this amount represents Land Rental Bid Premium which has been abolished by our Legislature", Director Karnwea disclosed.
He added that the cutoff period has been since December 2012, saying "This means that the outstanding has to be adjusted downward accordingly."
The Acting Managing Director said the Forestry Development Authority is working with companies to reschedule payment of this arrear of a period as a continuous liability to the government will affect the legality of the operations under the VPA arrangement.
"Several studies have shown that Liberia's forest taxation was among the highest in the world. Consequently, our Lawmakers in their wisdom have abolished the Bid Premium which according to reports was meant to be a one time payment", he concluded.